The Cross-Bay Ferry’s last trip from St. Petersburg to Tampa and back is scheduled for Sunday, April 30.
The pilot project was always planned to last for just six months, and as that deadline approaches, the service has become increasingly popular. Ferry officials announced last week they had sold a record 7,990 tickets in March. That marked a 31-percent increase over its previous record, which ferry officials said was in February.
The private partnership between HMS Ferries and St. Petersburg, Tampa, Pinellas and Hillsborough included a $350,000 contribution from all four local governments last year. According to ferry officials, preliminary figures “suggest the ferry has generated enough from tickets to reimburse the four government sponsors $57,332 for March. That sum is on top of $44,693 in February and $9,909 in January, for a total of $111,934 to date with two-and-a-half weeks to go.” However, it should be noted that none of those local governments have received a single dollar back yet.
The schedule for the rest of April includes three trips leaving St. Petersburg and two leaving Tampa Monday through Friday, beginning at noon. There are three round trips on Saturday beginning at 2:30 p.m. and two round trips on Sunday.
Although final results and analysis are a few weeks off, conventional wisdom in Tampa and St. Petersburg is that the Cross-Bay Ferry has been a success. Certainly, Hillsborough County Commissioners seem to think so, as they were motivated enough last week to ramp up a proposal originally announced in 2013 to launch a ferry service in Hillsborough County.
The board approved a proposal last week that could tap into the $22 million received from the BP oil spill of 2010 to use on the proposed public-private partnership plan to take passengers from South County to MacDill Air Force Base, then on to St. Petersburg.
Appearing before the Pinellas County Commission last month, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, the leading public official advocating for the ferry, said that his staff is contacting federal and state officials to see what is required for those governments to possibly contribute money for the temporary service. The mayor will address the Hillsborough County Commission on April 19 and the Tampa City Council on April 27, where he is expected to make similar comments.